Lake Ontario is one of the five North American Great Lakes, and it is the 14th largest lake in the world. Surrounded by the Canadian province of Ontario, and the American state of New York, it is the easternmost Great Lake and the smallest Great Lake in surface area. Including islands its shoreline is 1146 kilometres long, and its primary source is the Niagara River. The largest cities on Lake Ontario are Toronto, Hamilton, and Rochester. There are many gorgeous beaches and parks along the lake, some being very touristy and some seeming completely secluded from the rest of the world. In this post I am going to be writing about some of my favourite waterfront parks on Lake Ontario, all located in the Greater Toronto Area in cities like Mississauga, Pickering, and Oshawa.
The easternmost major city in the GTA, Oshawa is located about 60 kilometres east of downtown. Since my uncle lives in Oshawa, he and I went on a walk from his to the lake. The part of the lake that we visited is actually part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, a trail that stands across the Canadian shores of most of the Great Lakes, focusing mostly on the shores of Lake Ontario. You can’t exactly visit the exact same spot that we did, but the waterfront trail overall is a great place to visit and relax at. Plus, it extends over a large amount of the shoreline so it is easy to get to a part of it. As you can tell in the photos, the waves the day we visited were pretty rough according to my uncle who comes here pretty often (the recent flooding probably contributed to it)!
On the walk to the actual lake, we past by this marsh. I looked it up and it is actually called the Pumphouse Marsh Wildlife Reserve, and it is a small wetland that is used for research by the nearby schools. It is also one of the smallest marshes in the region (Durham Region), at only seven hectares. Despite that, it was really pretty and it was surrounded by a lot of nature!
Not too far from the spot we visited on the trail is Lakeview Park, a pretty community park on the shore of the lake. The park is full of locals, and you most likely wouldn’t find a single tourist there since it is quite far from Toronto. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy the view, some parts of it can get crowded during the summer and on weekends, but if you explore a bit I’m sure you can find a more tucked away spot.
There are a few of sports fields throughout the large park, as well as a splash pad and a ton of picnic benches to set up for a picnic (which I think is a great idea!). We also found these swings which I had a ton of fun on since I hadn’t been on swings since elementary school…
Lakewoods Park is a smaller park pretty much right next to Lakeview with a beautiful lookout onto the lake and the surrounding land. While my uncle and I were exploring the park, we came across a trail that lead up a small hill. We walked up the short trail, and found ourselves atop a small ‘cliff’ (my uncle guessed it’s about 15 metres high?) of sorts. As you can see, the lookout has an absolutely stunning view that includes the Toronto skyline on clear days (which this day wasn’t!). However, you can very faintly see a bit of the Scarborough skyline in the distance.
On the top left is the view of the lookout point we visited from the Waterfront Trail, the top right shows the view to the east, the bottom left shows a photo of the drop from the lookout point, and the bottom right shows the seemingly never ending lake from the lookout.
Ajax, about 50 kilometers east from downtown, is two towns over from Oshawa. One of grandmothers lives in Ajax, and whenever we come to Ontario we stay with her! She suggested that we check out the Ajax Waterfront park, so we took her suggestion and drove to the waterfront to check it out.
The Ajax Waterfront Park, which is actually part of the same Waterfront Trail I visited in Oshawa, is six kilometers of park land across the town’s border on the lake. A path runs across the park near the lake, and you will find many locals walking their dogs, jogging, cycling and enjoying the view on this path.
The path is slightly elevated, so it isn’t exactly on the lake, but there are many paths that lead to tiny beaches on the lake. Since most of the people stay on the main path, these small beaches are completely empty for you to discover for yourself!
Rotary Frenchman’s Bay Park
Pickering, another city east of Toronto, is approximately 40 kilometres from downtown. Rotary Frenchman’s Bay West Park is a well sized park west of Pickering’s Frenchman’s Bay. This park is home to a climax forest, many meadows, and a beautiful beach on Lake Ontario.
The park’s beach, shown above, is right on the lake and it has some of the most beautiful yet simplistic view of the lake out of all of the waterfronts included in this post. We were the only ones at this secluded beach the day we visited, which made our visit much more enjoyable! Since we visited on kind of an off day, I’m not sure if the park’s beach is usually really busy or as quiet as the day we visited. I guess you’ll have to see for yourself if you visit.
Unfortunately, Pickering’s infamous power plant kind of ruins the view to the east (not shown). However, it’s still a great photo if you can get the power plant out of the shot! The day we visited the beach the waves were pretty high as well, seeing as the lake has experienced some flooding recently. There isn’t as much to do at this beach compared to some of the others, but it is a perfect spot if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and kind of isolated from the rest of the world… in a good way!
Harbourfront, an upscale neighborhood in downtown Toronto, is likely the most well known waterfront on Lake Ontario. The neighborhood is clearly located near Toronto’s border on the lake, and it has some of the best views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands in the province. Harbourfront was once a busy shipping/industrial port, that only recently became the tourist attraction it now is. It is separated from the rest of downtown by the Gardiner, which gives it more of a relaxed feel to it than the rest of the city.
Many open areas, trails, and parks can be found throughout Harbourfront, which are all great spots to get some work done, explore, or just relax. Queen’s Quay Terminal can also be found in Harbourfront, a former warehouse that was turned into a shopping centre, office building, and condo. We went inside the terminal, and my parents said that it is actually a lot different than it used to be… less stores and restaurants, and more offices/apartments. Every Thursday, from two in the afternoon to eight in the evening, a local food market is set up where you can get fresh produce and even some sweets like the butter tart in the photo on the right. Plus, the CN Tower (check out my post all about it here!) is just a couple blocks north of the neighbourhood, so there are some really lovely views of the tower from Harbourfront!
While my family was exploring Harbourfront, we came across Purina PawsWay, an adorable and unique pet centre for pet lovers! My family loves animals (we have a cat of our own named Sunny who is sitting with me as I write this), so we decided that we had to check out what this pet centre had to offer! Pets (cats & dogs) are allowed in the centre, and it is free admission for everyone coming in. Throughout the building we saw a pet friendly café, a dog training area, and even a Purina Animal Hall of Fame. This ‘Hall Of Fame’ recognizes over 160 pets, 136 dogs, 27 cats, and 1 horse, that have saved lives. Obviously this spot isn’t for everyone, but if you are a pet fanatic like me I’d definitely suggest checking out the Purina PawsWays and spending a bit of times looking through the centre!
Richard’s Memorial Park
Sixth largest city in Canada, Mississauga is about 30 km west of downtown. Back when I lived in Ontario, this is the city I lived in, so I have a few close friends in the area. I met up with one of my friends, Lorelei, and her and her mom brought me to a couple parks on the lake in Mississauga. The first park that we stopped at was Richard’s Memorial Park, a small park with a gorgeous beach area. At the beach, we saw a few people laying out in the sun and a group having a picnic on the rocks, yet no one actually swimming in the lake… it was a bit cold for that!
This park is a great place to spend some time with your friends and family, and just relax while being right on the lake. There weren’t too many people at the park when we visited, which was on a Saturday, so probably one of the most busy days at the park. Looking east from the park is an absolutely stunning view of the Toronto skyline, which was really clear since luckily the weather was great the day we visited. Overall, we didn’t spend too much time at this park, since we actually meant to visit the nearby Jack Darling Park… however, we did spend a few really enjoyable minutes here taking some photos of the beautiful view of the skyline and of the lake!
Jack Darling Memorial, less than a kilometre away from Richard’s Memorial, is a much larger park with a beautiful lakefront area. The same Waterfront Trail I mentioned earlier runs along the waterfront of this park, along with a few lookout points that jet out into the lake. These rocky points offer remarkable views of the Toronto skyline, that are even wider than the ones at Richard’s Memorial, as well as views of the lake and the surrounding land.
This park is home to a popular splash pad for kids, a leash free dog park, a mini playground for kids, and even a couple tennis courts. There are a ton of picnic areas spread out throughout the park, which did get a bit busy the day we went. So, instead of waiting for a bench we set up a blanket in a shady spot under a tree and had our lunch!
Unfortunately, the entire time I lived in Mississauga (a pretty long time!), I didn’t know about either of these parks! I really wish I did though, because I definitely would’ve visited them a ton.
Jack Darling Park is a lot busier than Richard’s Memorial, as it is a lot bigger and more well known, but both parks are perfect places to spend a morning or afternoon. If you’re looking for a park that has a lot of stuff to do, maybe pick Jack Darling, and if you’re looking for a quieter, smaller, and less busy park, pick Richard’s Memorial. Nonetheless, both parks have the same view of the skyline and of the amazing Lake Ontario!
That brings us to the end of my post today! I worked especially hard on this post in particular and I really hope that you enjoyed it. Have you ever been to Lake Ontario? If so, have you been to any of the waterfront parks I mentioned in this post? If not, have you been to any of the Great Lakes?
Thank you for reading 🙂